Timescape: History Plays and Isolation
Frank does take some hope, however, for he has finally raised enough money for
Lily to sail from England with their baby. Frank, in his last letter to Lily, has come to
terms with the fact that the realities of his homestead will never measure up to his
original dreams of his family’s own little Utopia in Saskatchewan. Of the farm, Frank
admits, “It’s not very grand, but it will gradually improve. Although I doubt that it will
ever have roses around the door. But I do have a cow for fresh milk. No peaches, I’m
afraid. It’s not much, but it’s the best I can do and it’s all for you, me, and little Charlie.”
Lily has named their baby Charlie, after Frank’s friend Charlie Baxter.
Unfortunately, Frank will never see his family home at the farm. By the time Lily
arrives in Saskatchewan, Frank has died. Charlie Baxter breaks the news to Lily that
Frank died two weeks before, of the flu. Isolation was deadly to Frank. Charlie explains:
“Being by himself, he didn’t have anyone to look after him.” Lily grimly resolves to go
to the farm. It is the only place she can go. The last line of the play is Lily’s, “Just take
us to our farm, Charlie.” This outcome fits the terms of Atwood’s straight-line-versus-
the-curve battle. Frank has battled Nature’s curve and won. He has imposed his straight
line, the farm, onto nature. But in doing so, he destroyed his own life-force. Frank’s
settlement succeeded. Frank did not. Lily and Charlie Jr. may make a success out of the
farm, but the listener is left with the sense that Lily would much rather have been poor in
England with Frank than alone on her farm in Canada.
Frank’s journey follows Frye’s archetypes of the tragic journey in several ways.
First, his decisions progressively isolate him from his community/human world. The
voyage from England to Winnipeg removed him from his home, family, and country.